Junior Boks to play Rugby Championship

An U20 version of the Rugby Championship will start in 2024 to create a pathway for youngsters from Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, SANZAAR said.

The annual tournament will be played in one country, with all teams facing each other once across a three-week period.

The top team after the three-round, six-match event will be declared the winner. The Championship, which will be hosted in the Gold Coast in Australia next year in April exact dates to be confirmed.

SA’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and Junior Springbok head coach Bafana Nhleko reacted enthusiastically to the announcement made earlier on Thursday.

“We’ve been trying for a long time to organise more competitive matches for the Junior Springboks as lack of quality game time is something we’ve identified as lacking from the U20 programme,” said Erasmus.

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“It was clear that the Six Nations teams participating in this year’s World Rugby U20 Championship came into the tournament better prepared for the rigours of international rugby.

“Nothing prepares a player better for top-level competition than regular exposure to match situations, and there isn’t a better way to do this, than to play. We are very excited about this new competition and would like to commend SANZAAR for putting it together.”

Nhleko added: “This is exciting news and we are looking forward to three tough games against talented opposition. It’s a good opportunity for players to affirm their places in the squad, and to test our systems as we build cohesion and momentum for the World Rugby U20 Championship.

“This initiative is an important development for the SANZAAR teams’ pathway programmes, not only as match preparation for the world championship, but it’s also a life experience for the players to travel to different countries and experience different environments and cultures.

“We’d like to thank SA Rugby and applaud the efforts of all stakeholders in making this tournament possible. Each international game at this level is important in helping player development and laying a foundation for the World Rugby U20 Championship as well as the players’ senior professional careers.”

“It has long been recognised that the missing link in our junior pathways was the existence of a SANZAAR international championship for up-and-coming talent,” said Hamish McLennan, chair of rugby’s southern hemisphere governing body, on Thursday.

“Exposure to additional international matches can only benefit the players in terms of experience and adapting to the demands of the top level of rugby.”

South Africa recently hosted the World U20 Championship, won for the third successive time by France.

The Junior Boks beat England in the third-place playoff to secure a fourth consecutive bronze medal.

© Agence France-Presse

Photo: World Rugby

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